FOOTBALL After a 10-year gap, the AGORC team bagged the senior division league title. Meet the stalwarts behind the achievement
F aith has been their trusted ally and the frequent reference to “God's grace” only accentuates this. For P. Muthu and A. Justus Antony, bulwarks of AGORC's (AG's Office Recreation Club) success in this year's Chennai Football Association senior division league, the happy tidings were not entirely unexpected.
“I don't know if it was a prophecy but all thanks to God,” smiles Muthu when reminded of his prediction, ahead of the season, of a “non-Customs, non-ICF champions” this time. Eventually, AGORC bagged its second senior division league title after a gap of 10 years.
‘Anto', who also doubled as coach, acknowledges the importance of having a good blend of young and experienced players. “We had resolved to finish in the top three. Draw was never an option,” avers the midfielder who dabbles in freestyle juggling. The 34-year-old Muthu nods his head in agreement and emphasises that AGORC approached every contest as if it was the final. “We were in the relegation zone last year. So this time we had to go all out (to win),” says the top scorer in the tournament with 13 goals.
Anto (35) has a simple but effective approach to on-field strategy. “We had different plans for each side. Most teams would attack from the flank but we played to our strengths. Our game plan involved making one-touch passes from the centre,” reveals the AFC ‘B' licence coach.
The diminutive duo's efficacy in the supply line has been compared to the noted Indian Bank pair Hamilton Bobby-Sabir Pasha, once the folklore of local football. Muthu and Anto possessed a great understanding of each other's game having played together for about a decade now. AGORC's scheme of things this year had Anto patrolling the midfield and attacking in short bursts while the swift mover Muthu excelled as a scoring machine.
So how did the veterans cope with gruelling fitness demands? “Strengthening exercises and weight training,” is Anto's response, while Muthu swears by his three-days-a-week gym routine. “My Pune FC stint has helped a lot in injury management,” says the twinkle-toed striker.
The absence of a Chennai outfit in the I-league elicited contrasting reactions from them. “Right now, there is no side in Chennai that can perform consistently at that level. Bench strength needs to be developed,” laments Anto. Muthu, on the other hand, cannot put a finger on why promotion to the I-league continued to elude teams from Tamil Nadu. “There is definitely a lot of potential. A good squad comprising the cream of senior division league talent can make a difference”.
The pair also hailed the contribution of its employer and hoped for more appointments under the sports quota. “We had four sports quota recruitments this year. A lot of other teams didn't have that advantage”, says Muthu. Anto and Muthu are thankful for the support of Principal Accountant General R. S. Rangarajan. “He was excited all the way during our last match and gave us cash awards as well,” chimes in Anto.
The seasoned campaigners are also involved in coaching children from less-privileged backgrounds. “It's our way of giving back to the game,” says Muthu with a glint in his eye.